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Farm bill committee searching for compromise

Farm BillThe House of Representatives was not in session last week, but the leaders of the farm bill conference committee were working to find com­promises.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says the conference committee’s work could be completed by Thanksgiving. That may be optimistic considering the major differences between the two bills and between the two parties.
Stabenow notes that funding for food stamps for the coming year fell by $5 billion with the end of the stimulus program last Friday, and that the saving over the next 10 years will total $11 billion.

She wants to take that $11 billion and add in the $4 billion in actual cuts the Senate passed and argue that proposed “savings” now total $15 billion. Conference com­mittee members from the House say that won’t fly, since ending the stimulus spending is not part of the farm bill reforms and was unbudgeted spending to begin with.

The House-Senate budget conference committee is under pressure to at least set top-line spending levels for fiscal 2014 by Thanksgiving.

Leaders of the Appropriations Committees in both houses need this information so they can begin work on bills for the different govern­mental agencies. They also hope the conference committee can agree on spending levels for fiscal 2015.

Appropriations bills for fiscal 2015 need to be completed by next September to avoid the use of those “continuing resolutions” that have become common practice in recent years. The budget conference committee is trying to find ways to replace across-the-board “seques­ter” spending cuts with a more targeted process that addresses specific needs.

The conference committee will resume work next week and is charged with finalizing a compromise budget by December 15.—Rich Pottorff, Doane chief economist & Washington analyst

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